Items and actions
1. Teacher Panel members were welcomed to the meeting and apologies given on behalf of those unable to attend.
2. The Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills (DFM) confirmed that it was useful for the panel to convene again given the extent to which the landscape had changed since the previous discussion in May.
Re-Opening Education Settings
3. DFM gave detailed background to his announcement of 23 June regarding the full re-opening of education settings in August. He also highlighted the acceptance across the political spectrum that the alternative (blended learning) model is a useful contingency to have should there be, for example, isolated outbreaks of Covid-19 in the coming months that require the closure of individual schools. Further advice will be given during the summer confirming whether it is safe for schools to return in August.
4. DFM highlighted some other key points from his 23 June statement:
- an expansion of digital learning: £30m to be made available for devices and connectivity packages for those pupils without digital access; and Education Scotland and e-Sgoil to co-produce digital lessons that can be delivered by any teacher in Scotland.
- £100m of new money to support education recovery: a proportion of this will flow into the employment of newly qualified teachers in a bid to boost the teaching workforce. This recruitment will help reinforce the learning that has been lost during the period of school closures and will also be used to support the health and wellbeing of pupils.
5. DFM acknowledged that although there were other items on the agenda he wished to use today’s meeting to take stock in light of yesterday’s statement.
6. A number of comments were made by Teacher Panel members:
- schools should look to capitalise on the work already done around the blended learning model and remote learning.
- many schools already have contingency models in position should they be required, and unions have been involved in discussions to ensure steps are in place to ensure staff safety. However members asked whether there should be a national position regarding what schools need to do in order to protect staff, given that individual discussions with the 32 local authorities would take considerable time.
7. In response to the latter bullet point, DFM confirmed that the position of the Covid-19 Education Recovery Group (CERG) has been agreed with the Scottish Government, local authorities, parents and unions – such agreement is crucial to give staff the confidence to return to schools.
8. DFM confirmed that a clinical advisory team to the CERG will look at the measures needed to ensure a safe environment for the return of staff and pupils. Issues it will consider include access, hand washing, cleaning and PPE. Subsequent guidance will be agreed at a national level and based on expert advice and evidence. Local authority, union and teacher buy-in will ensure confidence.
9. Gayle Gorman, Chief Inspector of Education for Scotland, praised the excellent work of schools and teachers during the period of school closures. She confirmed that Education Scotland is considering the development of sketch notes, case studies and webinars about lessons learned during the preceding three months, stating that the sector must not lose this opportunity to be brave and try new approaches.
10. Panel members provided some further observations:
- there appears to be negativity from some staff who are concerned that their work towards a blended learning model may have been in vain. Work needs to be done to convince these colleagues that this is not the case, and that the blended learning model is an important contingency plan.
- colleagues have undertaken a considerable amount of training in recent weeks and have really taken to digital learning. A message should be sent that they can continue with their new ways of working.
- some teachers already believed that if the science said it was safe to do so schools would return full-time in August. Therefore in anticipation of an August return a number of schools have already held meetings with parents to discuss pupil safety.
- for a profession that thrives on structure (e.g. timetables, bells etc.) it has been fascinating to see how it has responded to such significant change.
- pupil support staff help to increase attainment levels as they help pupils to grasp concepts etc. Therefore the recruitment of additional staff will be very helpful.
- it would be useful if, in August, there was some leeway for there to be two or three days per week where not all pupils are back in schools, allowing for an inclusive induction.
11. In response to the final bullet point, DFM confirmed that there is a strong argument for a more progressive start to the new term. He will reflect on that point and issue guidance over the next few weeks. Furthermore schools need to think carefully about how to re-introduce ASN pupils to learning: back to learning on day one may be right for some pupils, but not others. A culture of empowerment will enable teachers to find solutions that are correct for pupils’ individual circumstances.
12. One panel member highlighted restrictions that their local authority has placed on the use of some tools that are being utilised successfully by others. They suggested a push for the continued use of Glow, a valuable resource at present.
13. Gayle Gorman informed the panel that on one particular day, use of Glow had increased by more than 130%. Its growing use has enabled timeframes to shrink, allowing necessary changes to the platform to happen more quickly. Education Scotland is looking to unlock and change some aspects of Glow. Some local authorities have been using the Glow community, and there are now hopes for a national community to be established. Such is the success of Glow, other countries have been asking how it was created, and Education Scotland has also had conversations with UK Government colleagues who have not had the opportunity to connect with something like Glow.
14. A number of further points were raised by panel members:
- being able to spend time back in school, before pupils return, has been invaluable. This has allowed staff to prepare classrooms and ensure that handover notes and discussions are of high quality. The previous three months have also allowed teachers to explore how pupils have been engaging with teaching.
- although there is some apprehension about the work required before schools re-open, there is also lots of opportunity. Both the support of vulnerable children and the work undertaken by pupil support teams mean that the return to school may not be as daunting as originally thought. Returning staff will be more conscious of their own wellbeing due to the webinars etc. undertaken whilst schools were closed.
- yesterday’s announcement was welcomed by P1 teachers as it means they are able to deliver play-based pedagogy without restrictions.
15. DFM expressed his initial concerns about the application of physical distancing should it be required when schools re-open, and how this would affect pupils’ morale. However it is hoped that by August, we will be in a position where play-based pedagogy can be to the fore
16. Graeme Logan, Director of Learning, reassured panel members that the core re-opening guidance will be updated in conjunction with Health colleagues. Furthermore the latest data and evidence will continue to be shared with the profession throughout the summer.
17. DFM drew the meeting to a close, confirming that next steps will be communicated to everyone over the course of the summer. He acknowledged that a great deal has been achieved by the teaching profession during what has been a difficult time.
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